Most people have heard horror stories about dogs that turn on their owners and attack or bite people, but everyone also loves a good, friendly dog. An attack can be triggered by aggressive behaviors in any breed of “man’s best friend” if they are not properly socialized and trained as puppies. Whether you’re out in public or visiting someone’s home, you can never be sure which dogs are friendly and which might attack. However, you can prepare yourself by learning what to do in the event of a dog attack. Staying calm, taking control of the situation, and guarding your face and throat are the primary concerns at this time.

Focus and maintain composure

The best way to avoid a dog attack is to avoid creating a situation in which the dog feels compelled to attack. A dog’s body language and behavior can tell you a lot about its owner or about the situation if you’re around the one you don’t know or one that’s unattended. Most canine attacks are preceded by some sort of visible aggression display. Recognizing these warning signs early can help you diffuse or avoid the situation.

Some aggressive behaviors seen in most dog breeds include:

  • Constant, piercing howls and jowls
  • Exposed canines and canine teeth
  • Getting angry or a “razorback”
  • Taking a bite out of the air
  • Prominently displaying a broad, confident stance
  • Consisting of rigid ears and a sluggishly wagging tail.

If a dog is behaving aggressively towards you, the best course of action is to remain calm. Canines frequently launch attacks when they detect signs of terror in their prey. You should be assured and in charge of your surroundings, but you shouldn’t directly challenge the dog or it might become aggressive.

You should usually stand slightly off to the side of the dog. Don’t make the mistake of staring down the dog, as some dogs may take this as a challenge. Hold whatever you’re holding out in front of you steadily to make yourself look taller. Stop yourself from wanting to escape. If you stand your ground, the dog might get bored and leave you alone.

Using Your Body to Fight Off a Dog Attack

But not every dog will show clear signs of aggression before it attacks. Dogs socialized to be dominant or alpha often attacks without provocation. Unfortunately, even if you’re very cautious around dogs and pay close attention to their body language, you could still be attacked. It’s important to remember a few things if you ever find yourself in a situation where a dog is not just barking at you, but actually attacking you.

Dog attack defense tips:

  • Stay calm before a dog attacks to deter it, but shout for help if you can’t stop it. Even one other person can cause a dog to retreat. Shout “fire” to get people’s attention and make them run to you, not away from the dog.
  • Aggressive dogs aren’t very smart. Use its tendency to snap and bite on anything near its mouth to your advantage. If you’re being attacked by a dog, you can distract it by distracting it with something else, like an object in your hand, a stick you pick up off the ground, or even a shoe you remove from your foot at the last second.
  • Closed fists leave fingers vulnerable to dog bites. Keep your fists closed to prevent dog bites. A dog’s bite could sever it.
  • Face and throat lacerations are common in fatal dog attacks. Protect your face, throat, and chest with your fists and forearms.
  • An aggressive and quick dog may be hard to fend off, and a bite may be inevitable. If a dog is about to bite you, grab its forearm or shin. If you’re bitten in these areas, you’re less likely to suffer fatal arterial damage.
  • Removing a dog-bitten arm or leg can be dangerous. Pulling may worsen your lacerations and not free you. Instead, grab and overpower the dog. Most species can’t do much damage with their paws or mouths.

Right After a Dog Attack

Call for medical help right away if you’ve sustained serious injuries after a dog attack ends. A dog attack can be terrifying, but you can never be sure if the dog had rabies or another virulent infection, so it’s best to play it safe and visit an urgent care center even for minor bites. 

You should make contact with the dog’s owner if they are nearby. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the dog attack and its aftermath, you may have grounds to file a claim for damages against the dog’s owner, either through their homeowner’s insurance or pet insurance.

To learn more about your rights and options following a dog attack in your state, consult with a local dog bite injury attorney.